Elizabeth, recovered from her first bewildered grief, was on the point of bursting out into entreaties that she might do like many another faithful servant, live without wages, put up with any hardships, rather than be sent away. But something in Miss Hilary’s manner told her it would be useless—worse than useless, painful: and she would do any thing rather than give her mistress pain. When, utterly unable to control it, she gave vent to one loud sob, the expression of acute suffering on Miss Hilary’s countenance was such that she determined to sob no more. She felt that, for some reason or other, the thing was inevitable; that she must take up her burden, as her mistress had done, even though it were the last grief of all—leaving that beloved mistress.
“That’s right, Elizabeth,” said Miss Hilary, softly. “All these changes are very bitter to us also, but we bear them. There is nothing lasting in this world, except doing right, and being good and faithful and helpful to one another.”
She sighed. Possibly there had been sad tidings in the letter which she still held in her hand, clinging to it as we do to something which, however sorely it hurts us, we would not part with for the whole world. But there was no hopelessness or despair in her tone, and Elizabeth caught the influence of that true courageous heart.
“Perhaps you may be able to take me back again soon, Ma’am,” said she, looking toward Miss Leaf. “And meantime I might get a place; Mrs. Jones has told me of several;” and she stopped, afraid lest it might be found out how often Mrs. Jones had urged her to “better herself,” and she had indignantly refused. “Or,” (a bright idea occurred) “I wonder if Miss Selina, that is, Mrs. Ascott, would take me in at Russell Square?”
Hilary looked hard at her.
“Would you really like that?”
“Yes, I should; for I should see and hear of you. Miss Hilary, if you please, I wish you would ask Mrs. Ascott to take me.”
And Hilary, much surprised—for she was well acquainted with Elizabeth’s sentiments toward both Mr. Ascott and the late Miss Selina—–promised.
And now I leave Miss Hilary for a time; leave her in, if not happiness, great peace. Peace which, after these stormy months, was an actual paradise of calm to both herself and Johanna.
Their grief for Ascott had softened down. Its very hopelessness gave it resignation. There was nothing more to be done; they had done all they could, both to find him out and to save him from the public disgrace which might blight any hope of reformation. Now the result must be left in higher hands.
Only at times fits of restless trouble would come; times when a sudden knock at the door would make Johanna shake nervously for minutes afterward; when Hilary walked about every where with her mind preoccupied, and her eyes open to notice every chance passerby; nay, she had sometimes secretly followed down a whole street some figure which, in its light jaunty step and long fashionably-cut hair, reminded her of Ascott.